The 2022 NFL season is nearing the halfway point, and teams are jockeying for playoff positioning. With contenders rising and pretenders falling, the playoff picture is starting to take shape. Which teams will claim division titles and wild card spots? Let’s take an in-depth look at how the postseason matchups could unfold.
AFC East Standings Prediction
The AFC East features a tight race between the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins. Here are the projected final standings:
Buffalo Bills (13-4)
With MVP candidate Josh Allen at quarterback, the Bills remain Super Bowl favorites in the AFC. Expect Buffalo to pull away from Miami down the stretch.
Miami Dolphins (10-7)
After a hot start, the Dolphins will likely regress to the mean. Still, Miami should snag a wild card spot behind the arm and legs of Tua Tagovailoa.
New York Jets (7-10)
Rookie head coach Robert Saleh has the Jets playing competitive football. But New York’s rebuild is still a work in progress.
New England Patriots (5-12)
The post-Tom Brady era has not been kind to New England. Without a franchise QB, Bill Belichick and the Pats will miss the postseason.
AFC North Standings Prediction
The AFC North features a tight three-team race for the division crown. Here are the projected final standings:
Baltimore Ravens (12-5)
Despite injuries to J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, the Ravens lead the North behind the dynamic Lamar Jackson. Look for Baltimore to edge out Cincinnati.
Cincinnati Bengals (11-6)
Led by Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase, the defending AFC champs remain firmly in the playoff mix but lose a tiebreaker to Baltimore.
Cleveland Browns (8-9)
Losing Deshaun Watson to suspension hurts Cleveland’s chances in a stacked division. The Browns will fall just shy of January football.
Pittsburgh Steelers (6-11)
It’s a rebuilding year in Pittsburgh. With Mitch Trubisky at QB, the Steelers will hit a new low under Mike Tomlin.
AFC South Standings Prediction
The AFC South features a two-team race between the Titans and Colts. Here are the projected final standings:
Tennessee Titans (11-6)
Despite losing A.J. Brown, the Titans should repeat as division champs behind RB Derrick Henry’s dominant ground game.
Indianapolis Colts (10-7)
After acquiring Matt Ryan, the Colts are banking on the veteran QB to get them over the hump. Indy should snag a wild card spot.
Jacksonville Jaguars (6-11)
Former number one pick Trevor Lawrence has Jacksonville moving in the right direction. But the Jags are still rebuilding.
Houston Texans (2-15)
The Texans have fully embraced tanking this season. With QB Davis Mills struggling, Houston will vie for the number one pick.
AFC West Standings Prediction
The AFC West is the NFL’s premier division in 2022. Here are the projected final standings:
Kansas City Chiefs (13-4)
Despite a shaky start, Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs remain the team to beat in the West. Look for KC to pull away late.
Los Angeles Chargers (11-6)
Justin Herbert and the Chargers have served notice as contenders. Los Angeles will secure a wild card spot behind KC.
Las Vegas Raiders (8-9)
After a tumultuous start, volatility could doom the Raiders down the stretch and keep them out of the postseason.
Denver Broncos (5-12)
Acquiring Russell Wilson hasn’t paid dividends for Denver yet. With glaring weaknesses, the Broncos will sink in the West.
Wild Card Round Projection
Based on the above standings, here is how the AFC wild card matchups could look:
- (7) Miami Dolphins at (2) Cincinnati Bengals
- (6) Indianapolis Colts at (3) Los Angeles Chargers
These potential showdowns would provide no shortage of playoff drama. The Dolphins and Tagovailoa would clash with Joe Burrow’s Bengals in a battle of rising AFC contenders. Meanwhile, Matt Ryan could duel Justin Herbert in a clash between veteran and emerging star quarterbacks.
Divisional Round Projection
The divisional round could feature a pair of titanic matchups:
- (5) Los Angeles Chargers at (1) Buffalo Bills
- (3) Cincinnati Bengals at (2) Baltimore Ravens
Josh Allen vs. Justin Herbert would be an instant classic quarterback duel. Joe Burrow could also seek playoff revenge against Lamar Jackson and the Ravens in an AFC North skirmish. The winner of these divisional games would advance to the AFC Championship.
AFC Championship Game Projection
A projected conference title tilt between the Bills and Chiefs would be a rematch of last year’s epic AFC Divisional thriller.
With Patrick Mahomes seeking to avenge last year’s heartbreaking overtime loss, Josh Allen vs. Mahomes Part IV would be a quarterback battle for the ages with a Super Bowl berth on the line.
However, sleepers like the Bengals and Chargers could also make conference title noise if they build momentum in the playoffs.
NFC East Standings Prediction
The NFC East features a surprisingly tight race between the Giants and Eagles. Here are the projected final standings:
Philadelphia Eagles (11-6)
Despite a hot start from the Giants, the Eagles have more talent and experience to take the division behind Jalen Hurts’ breakout season.
New York Giants (10-7)
Riding Saquon Barkley’s resurgence and stingy defense, the G-Men will snap their playoff drought under rookie coach Brian Daboll.
Dallas Cowboys (9-8)
Losing Dak Prescott to injury is devastating for Dallas. With Cooper Rush at QB, the Cowboys will falter down the stretch.
Washington Commanders (5-12)
Between QB questions and mounting off-field turmoil, the Commanders will again miss the postseason under Ron Rivera.
NFC North Standings Prediction
The NFC North features a tight battle between the Vikings and Packers. Here are the projected final standings:
Minnesota Vikings (12-5)
Despite a shaky pass defense, the Vikings will ride Justin Jefferson and Dalvin Cook to an NFC North crown.
Green Bay Packers (11-6)
With Aaron Rodgers facing doubts, the Packers are no longer NFC favorites. But Green Bay should still snag a wild card spot.
Chicago Bears (4-13)
First-year head coach Matt Eberflus has the Bears playing hard. But Chicago’s talent deficiencies will lead to a top-five draft pick.
Detroit Lions (3-14)
Dan Campbell’s Lions are scrappy but still rebuilding. With Jared Goff at QB, Detroit remains in contention for the number one overall pick.
NFC South Standings Prediction
The NFC South has no dominant team in 2022. Here are the projected final standings:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (10-7)
Despite showing signs of decline, Tom Brady and the Bucs still have enough firepower in a weak division. Tampa Bay will squeak by Atlanta.
Atlanta Falcons (9-8)
After trading away Matt Ryan, the Falcons were expected to tank. But scrappy play from Marcus Mariota and Co. will keep Atlanta in the hunt.
Carolina Panthers (6-11)
With Christian McCaffrey now in San Francisco, Carolina is playing for draft positioning. But the future looks bright under Steve Wilks.
New Orleans Saints (5-12)
Dennis Allen is the next man up to try reviving the Saints post-Sean Payton. But New Orleans has too many holes and lacks a successor for Drew Brees.
NFC West Standings Prediction
The NFC West features a tight battle between the 49ers and Seahawks. Here are the projected final standings:
San Francisco 49ers (12-5)
Despite QB uncertainty, the 49ers have found their identity in the trenches. San Francisco will edge out Seattle behind defense and running game.
Seattle Seahawks (11-6)
After trading Russell Wilson, the Seahawks were expected to rebuild. But Geno Smith’s resurgence will power Seattle to a wild card spot.
Los Angeles Rams (9-8)
The Super Bowl hangover is real for the Rams. With Matthew Stafford banged up, LA will miss the playoffs a year after hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.
Arizona Cardinals (4-13)
Losing DeAndre Hopkins to suspension is devastating for Kyler Murray and the crumbling Cardinals. Arizona could be in for a top-five pick.
Wild Card Round Projection
Based on the above standings, here is how the NFC wild card matchups could look:
- (7) New York Giants at (2) San Francisco 49ers
- (6) Seattle Seahawks at (3) Green Bay Packers
The Giants visiting the 49ers would be a clash of franchises with rich postseason history. Meanwhile, Pete Carroll returning to Green Bay would set the stage for another Seahawks-Packers playoff classic.
Divisional Round Projection
The NFC divisional round could feature two heavyweight bouts:
- (5) Green Bay Packers at (1) Philadelphia Eagles
- (3) San Francisco 49ers at (2) Minnesota Vikings
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers going to Philly would pit two storied franchises against each other. The 49ers visiting Minnesota would be a divisional rivalry renewed on the playoff stage.
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NFC Championship Game Projection
A projected NFC title game between the Eagles and Buccaneers would be a Homecoming for Tom Brady against a Philadelphia team that has haunted him in the Super Bowl.
Jalen Hurts vs. Brady would be a showdown between phenom and legend playing for a chance to win the NFC crown. But contenders like the 49ers and Vikings will also push to reach the big game if they catch fire in January.
Super Bowl Projection
An Allen vs. Mahomes duel could determine the AFC’s Super Bowl representative. In the NFC, veterans like Brady and Rodgers aim for one more ring while young stars like Hurts hope to emerge.
Ultimately, the Bills and Chiefs appear on a collision course to decide AFC supremacy. But potential sleepers like the Bengals and Chargers could crash the party. In the NFC, the Eagles look like front-runners but perennial contenders like the Packers and Bucs loom.
After an exciting playoff run, Josh Allen leading Buffalo against Jalen Hurts and Philly has the makings of a dream Super Bowl matchup. But many thrilling twists and turns still await on the NFL’s playoff path to Super Bowl LVII.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the current favorites to win Super Bowl LVII?
The Buffalo Bills (+550) are the current Super Bowl favorites followed closely by the Philadelphia Eagles (+700). The Kansas City Chiefs (+750), San Francisco 49ers (+1200), and Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+1400) round out the top contenders.
Which teams are currently projected to earn first-round playoff byes?
In the AFC, the Bills, Chiefs, and Ravens hold tiebreaker edges to secure the top seeds. In the NFC, the Eagles and Vikings currently have inside tracks on bye weeks with half a season still to play.
Which division winner is the most vulnerable heading into the playoffs?
The Buccaneers (10-7 projected record) look like the shakiest division champion. Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay offense have underwhelmed, and the defense declined from last season. Still, Brady’s playoff experience makes the Bucs dangerous.
Which wild card team could make the deepest run?
The Chargers (11-6 projected record) have the offense to outscore anyone, led by Justin Herbert throwing to Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Los Angeles also has difference-makers like Joey Bosa and Derwin James on defense. Pundits might sleep on the Bolts as underdogs, but their talent could power a January run.
Which top quarterback could miss the playoffs?
Russell Wilson and the 3-5 Broncos are in real danger of missing the postseason tournament. In the loaded AFC West, Denver faces an uphill battle to pass the Chiefs, Chargers, and possibly Raiders in the standings down the stretch.
Which team has the easiest remaining strength of schedule?
Looking purely at 2022 winning percentages of remaining opponents, the Vikings (.438) have the friendliest schedule followed by the Bengals (.453) and Jets (.459). The Rams (.551) face the hardest remaining road.
Which potential playoff team has the most concerns right now?
The Buccaneers feature the greatest discrepancy between preseason expectations and current performance. At 4-5, Tampa Bay has struggled despite the return of its star-studded roster. Tom Brady’s personal struggles combined with defensive decline make the Bucs vulnerable if they do sneak into the playoffs.
Given the ultra-competitive nature of the NFL, expect twists and turns in the 2022 playoff picture right down to Week 18. Surprise division winners and wild card entrants will likely emerge while some favorites fall short. But the league’s top Super Bowl contenders have begun separating from the pack. Powerhouses like the Bills, Chiefs, and Eagles currently have the clearest paths to postseason glory. Yet nothing is guaranteed in the single-elimination NFL tournament. A surprise run from a team like the Giants, Jets or Seahawks could await. So buckle up for what promises to be a thrilling playoff ride on the NFL’s road to Super Bowl LVII.